Hunting with the Bow and Arrow
Part 2 out of 4
perfect gradation from handle to tip.
Where a knot or pin occurs in the wood, here you must leave more
substance because this is a weak spot. If the pin be large and you
cannot avoid it, then it is best to drill it out carefully and fill the
cavity with a solid piece of hard wood set in with glue. A pin crumbles
while an inserted piece will stand the strain. If such a "Dutchman" be
not too large nor too near the center of either limb, it will not
materially jeopardize the bow. If, in your shaving, you come across a
sharp dip in' the grain, such that will make a decided concavity, here
leave a few more layers of grain than you would were the contour even;
for a concave structure cannot stand strain as well as a straight one;
the leverage is increased unduly.
The following measurements, with a caliper, are those of my favorite
hunting bow, called "Old Horrible," and with which I've slain many a
beast. The width just above the handle is 1-1/4 by 1-1/8 inches thick.
Six inches up the limb the width is 1-1/4, thickness 11-1/16.
Twelve inches above the handle it is a trifle less than 1-1/4 wide by 1
inch thick. Eighteen inches above the handle it is 1-1/8 wide by 7/8
thick. Twenty-four inches above it is 15/16 wide by 3/4 thick. Thirty
inches above it is 11/16 by 9/16 thick. At the nock it is practically
1/2 by 1/2 inches.
Having got the bow down to rough proportions, the next thing is to cut
two temporary nocks on it, very near the ends. These consist in lateral
cuts having a depth of an eighth of an inch and are best made with a
rat tail file.
Now you can string your bow and test its curve.
Of course, you must have a string, and usually that employed in these
early tests is very strong and roughly made of nearly ninety strands of
Barbour's linen, No. 12. Directions for making strings will be given
It is difficult to brace a new heavy bow and one will require
assistance. In the absence of help he can place it in the vise, one of
those revolving on a pivot, and having the string properly adjusted on
the lower limb, pull on the upper end in such a way that the other
presses against the wall or a stationary brace, thus bending the bow
while you slip the expectant loop over the open nock. Or you can have
an assistant pull on the upper nock, while you brace the bow yourself.
In ancient times, at this stage, the bow was tillered, or tested for
its curve, or, as Sir Roger Ascham says, "brought round compass," which
means to make it bend in a perfect arc when full drawn.
The tiller is a piece of board three feet long, two inches wide, and
one inch thick, having a V-shaped notch at the lower end to fit on the
handle and small notches on its side two inches apart, for a distance
of twenty-eight inches. These are to hold the string.
Lay the braced bow on the floor, place the end of the tiller on the
handle while you steady the tiller upright. Then put your foot on the
bow next the tiller and draw the string up until it slips in the first
notch, say twelve inches from the handle. If the curve of the bow is
fairly symmetrical, draw the string a few inches more. If again it
describes a perfect arc raise the string still farther. A perfect arc
for a bow should be a trifle flat at the center. If, on the other hand,
one limb or a part of it does not bend as it should, this must be
reduced carefully by shaving it for a space of several inches over the
spot and the bow tested again.
Proceeding very cautiously, at the same time not keeping the bow full
drawn more than a second or two at a time, you ultimately get the two
limbs so that they bend nearly the same and the general distribution of
the curve is equal throughout.
As a matter of fact, a great deal of experience is needed here. By
marking a correct form on the floor with chalk, a novice may fit his
bow to this outline.
The perfect weapon is a trifle stiff at the center and the lower limb a
shade stronger than the upper.
The real shooting center, the place where the arrow passes, is actually
one and one-quarter inches above the geographic center, and the hand
consequently is below this point. Your finished hand grip, being four
inches long, will be one and a quarter inches above the center and two
and three-quarters below the center. This makes the lower limb
comparatively shorter, so it must be relatively stronger. Your bow,
therefore, when full drawn should be symmetrical, but when simply
braced, the bend of the upper limb is perceptibly greater than the
stronger lower limb.
You will find the bow we have made will pull over eighty pounds, even
after it is thoroughly broken to the string. It is necessary,
therefore, to reduce it further. This is done with a spoke shave, a
very small hand plane or a file. Ultimately I use a pocket knife as a
scraper, and sandpaper and steelwool to finish it.
Your effort must be to get every part of the wood to do its work, for
every inch is under utmost strain, and one part doing more than the
rest must ultimately break down, sustain a compression fracture, or, as
an archer would say, "chrysal or fret."
"A bow full drawn is seven-eighths broken," said old Thomas Waring, the
English bowmaker, and he was right. Draw your bow three inches more
than the standard cloth yard of twenty-eight inches and you break it.
It is more accurate to say that a full drawn bow is nine-tenths broken.
It is also essential that the bow be stiff in the handle so that it
will be rigid in shooting and not jar or kick, which one weak at this
point invariably does.
A bow should be light at the tips, say the last eight inches, which is
accomplished by rounding the back slightly and reducing the width at
this point. This gives an active recoil, or as it is described, "whip
ended." This can be overdone, especially in hunting-bows, where a
little more solidity and safety are preferable to a brilliant cast.
And so you must work and test your bow, and shoot it, and draw it up
before a full length mirror and observe its outline, and get your
friends to draw it up and pass judgment on it. In fact, while the
actual work of making a bow takes about eight hours, it requires months
to get one adjusted so that it is good. A bow, like a violin, is a work
of art. The best in it can only be brought out by infinite care. Like a
violin, it is all curved contours, there is not a straight line in it.
Many of my bows have been built over completely three or four times.
Old Horrible first pulled eighty-five pounds. It was reduced,
shortened, whip ended, and worked over again and again so to tune the
wood that all parts acted in harmony. Every good bow is a work of love.
Your bow is now ready to shoot, but let us weigh it first. Brace it and
put it horizontally in the vise with the string facing you. Take a
spring scale registering at least eighty pounds and catch the hook
under the string. Draw it until the yardstick registers twenty-eight
inches from the string to the back of the bow. Now read the scale; that
is its weight.
As a matter of convenience I have devised a stick that facilitates the
weighing. I take a dowel and attach to one end by glue and binding a
bent piece of iron so fashioned that the extremity serves as a hook to
draw the string and the bent portion permits the attachment of the
scale. The dowel is marked off in inches so that one can test different
lengths of draw. With the bow in the bench vise, this measure hooked on
the string and resting on the bow at the arrow plate, the scale is
hooked in place, the dowel drawn down to the standard length and the
registered weight read off on the scale.
If you still find that your bow is too strong for you, it must be
further reduced. Begin all over again with the spoke shave and the
file, trying to correct any inequalities that may have existed before
and reducing it to what ultimately will be sixty-five pounds. Put on
the string and weigh it again and again until you get the weight you
want. If you have reduced it too much, cut it down two or four inches;
it will be stronger and shoot better.
All yew bows tend to lose in strength after much use, and your new one
should pull five pounds more than the required weight. If a bow is put
away in a dry, warm place for several years it nearly always increases
in strength. In our experience one in constant use lasts from three to
five years. The longer the bow, the longer its life. Some, of course,
break or come to grief after a short period, others live to honorable
old age. Yew bows are in existence today that were made many thousands
of years ago, but, of course, they would break if shot. Many bows over
one hundred years old are still in use occasionally. I have estimated
that the average life of a good bow should exceed one hundred thousand
shots, after which time it begins to fret and show other signs of
Keeping in mind the idea of making your weapon as beautiful, as
symmetrical and resilient as possible, free from dead or overstrained
areas, work it down with utmost solicitude until it approaches your
ideal. Smooth it with sandpaper; finish it with steelwool.
Now comes the process of putting on the nocks. A bow shoots well
without them, but is safer with them.
From time immemorial, horn tips have been put on the ends of the limbs
to hold the string. We have used rawhide, hardwood, aluminum, bone, elk
horn, deer horn, buffalo horn, paper fiber or composition, and cow's
horn. The last seems best of all. From your butcher secure a number of
horns. With a saw cut off three or four inches of the tip. Place one in
a vise and drill a conical hole in it an inch and a quarter deep and
half an inch wide. This can be done by using a half-inch drill which
has been ground on a carborundum stone to a conical point the proper
length. In this hole set a stout piece of wood with glue. This permits
you to hold the horn in the vise while you work it.
After the glue has set, take a coarse file and shape the horn nock to
the classical shape, which is hard to describe but easy to illustrate.
It must have diagonal grooves to hold the string. The nock for the
upper limb has also a hole at its extremity to receive the buckskin
thong which keeps the upper loop of the string from slipping too far
down the bow when unbraced.
The nocks for hunting bows should be short and stout, not over one and
a half inches long, for they get a lot of hard usage in their travels.
They should also be broader and thicker than those used on target bows.
Two nocks having been roughly finished, they are loosened from their
wooden handles by being soaked in boiling water, and are ready for use.
Cut the ends of the bow to fit the nocks in such a way that they tip
slightly backward when in place, but do not attach them yet.
[Illustration: DETAILS OF BOW CONSTRUCTION]
At this point we back the bow with rawhide. Ordinarily a yew bow
properly protected by sapwood requires no backing; but having had many
bows break in our hands, we at last took the advice of Ishi and backed
them. Since then no bow legitimately used has broken.
The rawhide utilized for this purpose is known to tanners as clarified
calfskin. Its principal use is in the manufacture of artificial limbs,
drum heads and parchment. Its thickness is not much more than that of
Having secured two pieces about three feet in length and two inches
wide, soak them in warm water for an hour.
While this is being done, slightly roughen the back of your bow with a
file. Place it in the vise and size the back with thin, hot carpenter's
glue. When the hide is soft, lay the pieces smooth side down on a board
and wipe off the excess water. Quickly size them with hot glue, remove
the excess with your finger, turn the pieces over and apply them to the
bow. Overlap them at the hand grip for a distance of two or three
inches. Smooth them out toward the tips by stroking and expressing all
air bubbles and excess glue. Wrap the handle roughly with string to
keep the strips from slipping; also bind the tips for a short distance
to secure them in place. Remove the bow from the vise and bandage it
carefully from tip to tip with a gauze surgical bandage. Set it aside
to dry over night. When dry, remove the bandage and string binding, cut
off the overlapping edges of the hide and scrape it smooth. Having got
it to the required finish, size the exterior again with very thin glue,
and it is ready for the final stage.
The tips of the bow having been cut to a conical point and the nocks
fitted prior to the backing process the horn nocks are now set on with
glue; the ordinary liquid variety will do.
Glue a thin strip of wood on the back of the bow to round out the
handle. This should be about one-eighth of an inch thick, one inch wide
and three inches long and rounded at the edges.
Bind the center of your bow with heavy fish line to make the handgrip,
carefully overlapping the start and finish. A little liquid glue or
shellac can be placed on the wood to fix the serving. Some prefer
leather or pigskin for a handgrip, but a cord binding keeps the hand
from sweating and has an honest feel.
The handle occupies a space of four inches with one and a quarter
inches above the center and two and three-quarters below it. Finish off
the edges of the cord binding with a band of thin leather half an inch
wide. This should be soaked in water, beveled at the edge, sized with
glue, put around the bow, and overlapped at the back. I also glue a
small piece of leather on the left-hand side of the bow above the
handle to prevent the arrow chafing the wood at this spot. This is
called the arrow plate and usually is made of mother-of-pearl or bone;
leather is better. These finishing pieces are wrapped temporarily with
string until they dry.
The bow is then given a final treatment with scraper and steelwool and
is ready for the varnish.
The best protection for bows seems to be spar varnish. This keeps out
moisture. It has two disadvantages, however; it cracks after much
bending, and it is too shiny. The glint or flash of a hunting bow will
frighten game. I have often seen rabbits or deer stand until the bow
goes off, then jump in time to escape the arrow. At first we believed
they saw the arrow; later we found that they saw the flash. Bows really
should be painted a dull green or drab color. But we love to see the
natural grain of the wood.
The finish I prefer is first of all to give a coat of shellac to the
backing, leather trimmings and cord handle. After it is dry, give the
wood a good soaking with boiled linseed oil. Using the same oiled cloth
place in its center a small wad of cotton saturated with an alcoholic
solution of shellac. Rub this quickly over the bow. By repeated oiling
and shellacking one produces a French polish that is very durable and
Permit this to dry and after several days rub the whole weapon with
floor wax, giving a final polish with a woolen cloth.
When on a hunt one should carry a small quantity of linseed oil and
anoint his bow every day or so with it. Personally I add one part of
light cedar oil to two parts of linseed. The fragrance of the former
adds to the pleasure of using the latter.
When not in use hang your bow on a peg or nail slipped beneath the
upper loop of the string; do not stand it in a corner, this tends to
bend the lower limb. Keep it in a warm, dry room; preserve it from
bruises and scratches. Wax it and the string often. Care for it as you
would a friend; it is your companion in arms.
SUBSTITUTES FOR YEW
Where it is impossible to obtain yew, the amateur bowyer has a large
variety of substitutes. Probably the easiest to obtain is hickory,
although it is a poor alternative. I believe the pig-nut or smooth bark
is the best variety. One should endeavor to get a piece of second
growth, white sapwood, and split it so as to get straight grain.
This can be worked on the same general dimensions as yew, but the
resulting bow will be found slow and heavy in cast and to have an
incurable tendency to follow the string. It will need no rawhide back
and will never break.
Osage orange, mulberry, locust, black walnut with the sap wood, red
cedar, juniper, tan oak, apple wood, ash, eucalyptus, lancewood,
washaba, palma brava, elm, birch, and bamboo are among the many woods
from which bows have been made.
With the exception of lancewood, lemon wood, or osage orange, which are
hard to get, the next best wood to yew is red Tennessee cedar backed
Go to a lumber yard and select a plank of cedar having the fewest knots
and the straightest grain. Saw or split a piece out of it six feet
long, two inches wide, and about an inch thick. Plane it straight and
roughen its two-inch surface with a file. Obtain a strip of white
straight-grained hickory six feet long, two inches wide, and a quarter
Roughen one surface, spread these two rough surfaces with a good liquid
glue and place them together. With a series of clamps compress them
tightly. In the absence of clamps, a pile of bricks or weights may be
used. After several days it will be dry enough to work.
From this point on it may be treated the same as yew. The hickory
backing takes the place of the sap wood.
Cedar has a soft, lively cast and the hickory backing makes it almost
This bow should be bound with linen or silk every few inches like a
fishing rod. Several coats of varnish will keep the glue from being
affected by moisture or rain.
Since both woods are usually obtainable at any lumber yard, there
should be no difficulty in the matter save the mechanical factors
involved. These only add zest to the problem. A true archer must be a
MAKING A BOWSTRING
A bow without a string is dead; therefore, we must set to work to make
Sinew, catgut, and rawhide strings were used by the early archers, but
have been abandoned by the more modern. Animal tissue stretches when it
is put under strain or subjected to heat and moisture. Silk makes a
good string, but it is short-lived and is not so strong as linen.
A comparative test of various strings was made to determine which
material is the strongest for bows. Number 3 surgical catgut is
apparently a D string on the violin. Taking this as a standard
diameter, a series of waxed strings of various substances were made and
tested on a spring scale for their breaking point. The results are as
Horsehair breaks at 15 pounds.
Cotton breaks at 18 pounds.
Catgut breaks at 20 pounds.
Silk breaks at 22 pounds.
Irish linen breaks at 28 pounds.
Chinese grass fiber breaks at 32 pounds.
This latter, with similar unusual fibers, is not on the market in the
form of thread, so is of no practical use to us.
We use Irish linen or shoemakers' thread. It is Barbour's Number 12.
Each thread will stand a strain of six pounds; therefore, a bowstring
of fifty strands will suspend a weight of 300 pounds.
A target bow may have a proportionately lighter string than a hunting
bow because here a quick cast is desired; but in hunting, security is
necessary. We therefore allow one strand of linen for every pound of
This is the method of manufacturing a bowstring as devised by the late
Mr. Maxson and described in _American Archery_. Some few alterations
have been introduced to simplify the technique.
It is advisable to take the threads in your hands as you follow the
If you propose making a string for a sixty-five-pound bow, it should
have about sixty threads in it, and these are divided into three
strands of twenty threads each. Start making the first of these strands
by measuring off on the bow a length eight inches beyond each end--that
is, sixteen inches longer than your bow. Double your thread back,
drawing it through your hand until you reach the beginning. Now repeat
the process of laying one thread with another, back and forth, until
twenty are in the strand. But these must be so arranged that each is
about half an inch shorter than the preceding, thus making the end of
the strand tapered.
When twenty are thus stroked into one cord, they are heavily waxed by
drawing the strand through the hand and wax, from center to the ends,
each way. Now roll the greater part of this strand about your fingers
and make a little coil which you compress, but allow about twenty-four
inches to remain free and uncoiled. Thus abbreviated it is easier to
handle in the subsequent process of twisting it into a cord.
Make two other strands exactly like this, roll them into a compressed
coil and lay them aside. Now to form the loop or eye it is necessary to
thicken the string at this point with an additional splice. So lay out
another strand of twenty threads six feet long. Cut this into six
pieces, each twelve inches in length. Take one of these and so pull the
ends of the threads that they are made of uneven length, or that the
ends become tapered. Wax this splice thoroughly; do this to each one in
Now pick up one of your original strands and apply to its tapered end
and lying along the last foot of its length one of the above described
splices. Wax the two together. So treat the two other strands.
Grasp the three cords together in your left hand at a point nine inches
from the end. With the right hand pick up one strand near this point
and twist it between the thumb and finger, away from you, rolling it
tight, at the same time pulling it toward you. Seize another strand,
twist it from you and pull it toward you. Continue this process with
each in succession, and you will find that you are making a rope. By
the time the rope is three inches in length, it is long enough to fold
on itself and constitute a loop. Proceed to double it back so that the
loose ends of the strands are mated and waxed into cohesion with the
three main strands of the string. Arrange them nicely so that they
interlace properly and are evenly applied.
Now while being seated, slip the upper limb of your bow under your
right knee and over the left, and drop the new formed loop of your
string over the horn nock. Begin again the process of twisting each
strand away from you while you pull it toward you. Continue the motion
until you have run down the string a distance of eight inches. During
the process you will see the wisdom of having rolled the excess string
up into little skeins to keep them from being tangled. Thus the upper
eye is formed. At this stage unwind your skeins and stretch the string
down the bow, untwisting and drawing straight the three strands.
Seize them now three inches below the lower nock of your bow. At this
point apply the short splices for the lower loop. They should be so
laid on that three inches extends up the string from this point and the
rest lies along the tapered extremity. Wax them tight. Hold the three
long strands together while you give them final equalizing traction.
Start here and twist your second loop, drawing each strand toward you
as you twist it away from you until a rope of three inches is formed
again. This you double back on itself, mate its tapered extremities
with the three long strands of the string and wax them together.
Slip the upper loop down your bow and nock the lower loop on the lower
horn. Swing your right knee over the bow below the string and set the
loop on this horn while you work. Give the string plenty of slack.
Start again the twisting and pulling operation, keeping the strands
from tangles while you form the lower splice of the string. When it is
eight inches long, take off the loop and unroll the twist in the main
body of the string. Replace the loop and brace your bow. This will take
the kinks from the cord. Wax it thoroughly and, removing the lower
loop, twist the entire bowstring in the direction of the previous
maneuver until it is shortened to the proper length to fit the bow.
Nock the string again and, taking a thick piece of paper, fold it into
a little pad and rub the bowstring vigorously until it assumes a round,
If the loops are properly placed, the final twisting should make one
complete rotation of the string in a distance of one or two inches. A
closer twist tends to cut itself.
If, by mistake, the string is too short or too long, and adjusting the
twist does not correct it, then you must undo the last loop to overcome
the error. The fork of these loops is often bound with waxed carpet
thread to reduce their size and strengthen them. The whole structure at
this point may be served with the same thread to protect it from
becoming chafed and worn.
The center of the string and the nocking point for the arrow must now
be served with waxed silk, linen, or cotton thread to protect it from
Ordinarily we take a piece of red carpet thread or shoe button thread,
about two yards in length, wax it thoroughly and double it. Start with
the doubled end, threading the free end through it around the string,
and wind it over, from right to left. The point of starting this
serving is two and one-half inches above the center of the bowstring.
When you come to the nocking point, or that at which an arrow stands
perpendicular to the string while crossing the bow at the top of the
handle, make a series of overlapping threads or clove hitches. This
will form a little lump or knot on the string at this point. Continue
serving for half an inch and repeat this maneuver; again continue the
serving down the string for a distance of four or five inches,
finishing with a fixed lashing by drawing the thread under the last two
or three wraps.
A nocking point of this character has two advantages: the first is that
you can feel it readily while nocking an arrow in the dark or while
keeping your eye on the game, and the other point is that the knots
prevent the arrow being dislodged while walking through the brush.
We have found that by heating our beeswax and adding about one-quarter
rosin, it makes it more adhesive.
In hot or wet weather it is of some advantage to rub the string with an
alcoholic solution of shellac. Compounds containing glue or any hard
drying substance seem to cause the strings to break more readily.
Paraffin, talcum powder, or a bit of tallow candle rubbed on the
serving and nocking point is useful in making a clean release of the
So far as dampness and rain go, these never interfere with the action
of the string. A well-greased bow will stand considerable water, though
arrows suffer considerably.
Wax your string every few days if in use; you should always carry an
extra one with you.
Strings break most commonly at the nocking point beneath the serving.
Here they sustain the greatest strain and are subject to most bending.
An inspection at this point frequently should be done. An impending
break is indicated by an uneven contour of the strands beneath the
serving. Discard it before it actually breaks.
By putting a spring scale between one of the bow nocks and the end of
the string, the unexpected phenomenon is demonstrated that there is
greater tension on a string when the bow is braced but not drawn up. A
fifty-six pound bow registers a sixty-four pound tension on the string.
As the arrow is drawn up the tension decreases gradually until twenty-
six inches are drawn, when it registers sixty-four pounds again.
At the moment of recoil, when the bow springs back into position, this
strain must rise tremendously, for if the arrow be not in place the
string frequently will be broken.
The tension on the string at the center or nocking point during the
process of drawing a bow--that is, the accumulated weight--rises quite
differently in different bows. The arrow being nocked on the string, it
is ordinarily already six inches drawn across the bow. Now in the same
fifty-six pound bow for every inch of draw past this, the weight rises
between two and three pounds. As the arrow nears full draw, the weight
increases to such a degree that the last few inches will register five
or six pounds to the inch, depending on many variable factors in the
The gradient thus formed dictates the character of a bow to a great
extent. One that pulls softly at first and in the last part of the draw
is very stiff, will require more careful shooting to get the exact
length of flight than one whose tension is evenly distributed.
Reflexed bows are harder on strings than those that follow the string.
A breaking cord may fracture your bow. I saw Wallace Bryant lose a
beautiful specimen this way. One of Aldred's most perfect make, dark
Spanish yew and more than fifty years old, flew to splinters just
because a treacherous string parted in the center. Sturdy hunting bows
are not so liable to this catastrophe, but be sure you are not caught
out in a game country with a broken string and no second. You will see
endless opportunities to shoot. Wax is to an archer what tar is to a
sailor; use it often, and always have two strings to your bow.
HOW TO MAKE AN ARROW
Fletching is a very old art and, necessarily, must have many empirical
methods and principles involved. There are innumerable types of arrows,
and an equal number of ways of making them. For an excellent
description of a good way to make target arrows, the reader is referred
to that chapter by Jackson in the book _American Archery_.
Having learned several aboriginal methods of fletching and studied all
the available literature on the subject, we have adopted the following
maneuvers to turn out standard hunting arrows: The first requisite is
the shaft. Having tested birch, maple, hickory, oak, ash, poplar,
alder, red cedar, mahogany, palma brava, Philippine nara, Douglas fir,
red pine, white pine, spruce, Port Orford cedar, yew, willow, hazel,
eucalyptus, redwood, elderberry, and bamboo, we have adopted birch as
the most rigid, toughest and suitable in weight for hunting arrows.
Douglas fir and Norway pine are best for target shafts; bamboo for
The commercial dowel, frequently called a maple dowel, is made of white
birch and is exactly suited to our purpose. It may be obtained in
quantities from dealers in hardwoods, or from sash and door mills. If
possible, you should select these dowels yourself, to see that they are
straight, free from cross-grain, and of a rigid quality. For hunting
bows drawing over sixty pounds, the dowels should be three-eighths of
an inch in diameter; for lighter bows five-sixteenths dowels should be
used. They come in three-foot lengths and bundles of two hundred and
fifty. It is a good plan to buy a bundle at a time and keep them in the
attic to dry and season.
Where dowels are not obtainable, you can have a hickory or birch plank
sawed up or split into sticks half an inch in diameter, and plane these
to the required size, or turn them on a lathe, or run them through a
Take a dozen dowels from your stock and cut them to a length of
twenty-eight and one-quarter inches, or an inch less or more according
to the length of your arms. In doing this you should try to remove the
worst end, keeping that portion with the straightest grain for the head
of your shaft.
Having cut them to length, take a hand plane and shave the last six
inches of the rear end or shaftment so that the diameter is reduced to
a trifle more than five-sixteenths of an inch at the extremity.
Now comes the process of straightening your shafts. By squinting down
the length of the dowel you can observe the crooked portions. If these
are very bad, they should be heated gently over a gas flame and then
bent into proper line over the base of the thumb or palm. A pair of
gloves will protect the hand from burning. If the deviation be slight,
then mere manual pressure is often sufficient. During this process the
future arrow should be tested for strength. If it cannot stand
considerable bending it deserves to break. If it is limber, discard it.
Nocking the shaft comes next. Hunting arrows require no horn, bone,
aluminum, or fiber nock. Simply place the smaller end of the shaft in a
vise and cut the end across the grain with three hack saws bound
together, your cut being about an eighth of an inch wide by
three-eighths deep; finish it carefully with a file. Thus nock them all
and sandpaper them smooth throughout, rounding the nocked end
gracefully. To facilitate this process I place one end in a
motor-driven chuck and hold the rapidly revolving shaft in a piece of
sandpaper in my hand. When finished the diameter should be a trifle
under three-eighths of an inch at the center and about five-sixteenths
at the nock.
Mark them now, where the feathers and binding should go. At a point one
inch from the base of the nock make a circular line, this is for the
rear binding; five inches above this make another, this is for the
feather; one inch above this make another, this is for the front
binding; and an inch above this make another, this is for the painted
Feathers come next, but really they should have come long ago. The best
are turkey feathers, so we won't talk about any others. The time to get
them is at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then you should get on good
terms with your butcher and have him save you a boxful of turkey wings.
These you chop with a hatchet on a block, saving only the six or seven
long pinions. Put them away with moth balls until you need them. Of
course, if you cannot get turkey feathers when you want them, goose,
chicken, duck, or plumes from a feather duster may be employed. Your
milliner can tell you where to purchase goose feathers, but these are
Cutting arrow feathers is a pleasant occupation around the fire in the
winter evenings, and the real archer has the happiness of making his
tackle while his mind dwells upon the coming spring shooting. As he
makes his shaft he wonders what fate will befall it. Will it speed away
in a futile shot, or last the grilling of a hundred practice flights,
or will it be that fortunate arrow which flies swift and true and
brings down the bounding deer? How often have I picked up a shaft and
marked it, saying, "With this I'll kill a bear." And with some I've
done it, too!
So your feathers should be cut in quantity. This is the way you cut
them: Select a good clean one, steady it between your palms while with
your fingers you separate the bristles at the tip. Pull them apart,
thus splitting the rib down the center. If by chance it should not
split evenly, take your sharpened penknife and cut it straight.
Have ready a little spring clip, such as is used to hold your cravat or
magazine in a book store. One end of this is bent about a safety-pin so
that it can be fastened to your trousers at the knee. Now you have a
sort of knee vise to hold your feather while trimming it. Place the
butt of the rib in the jaws of the clip and shave it down to the
thickness of a thirty-second of an inch. Make this even and level so
that the feather stands perpendicular to it. With a pair of long
scissors cut off the lateral excess of rib on the concave side of the
feather. This permits it to straighten out.
At the same stage cut the feather roughly to shape; that is, five
inches long, half an inch at the anterior end, an inch wide
posteriorly, and having an inch of stem projecting at each extremity.
For this work you must keep your pocket-knife very sharp. With practice
you should cut a feather in two or three minutes.
Donnan Smith, a worthy archer and a good fletcher, has devised a spring
clamp which holds the feather while being cut. It is composed of a
strong binder clip to which are soldered two thin metal jaws the size
and shape of a properly cut feather. Having stripped his feather, he
clamps it rib uppermost between the jaws and trims the rib with a
knife, or on a fast-revolving emery stone, or sandpaper disc. This
accomplished, he turns the feather around in the clamp and cuts the
bristles to the exact shape of the metal jaws with a pair of scissors.
It is an admirable method.
Some fletchers cut their feathers on a board by eye with only a knife.
James Duff, the well-known American maker of tackle, learned this in
the shop of Peter Muir, the famous Scotch fletcher.
If you wish to dye your feathers it may be done by obtaining the
aniline dye used on wool. Adding about 10 per cent of vinegar to the
aqueous solution of the stain, heat it to such a temperature that you
can just stand your finger in it. Soak your feathers in this hot
solution, stir them for several minutes, then lay them out on a piece
of newspaper to dry in the sun. Red, orange, and yellow are used for
this purpose; the former helps one to find a lost arrow, but all colors
tend to run if wet, and stain the clothing.
Having prepared a sufficient quantity of feathers, you are ready to
fledge your shaft. Select three of a similar color, strength, and from
the same wing of the bird. With a stick, run a little liquid glue along
the rib of each and lay it aside. Along the axis of your arrow run
three parallel lines of glue down the shaftment. The first of these is
for the cock feather and should be on a line perpendicular to the nock.
The other two are equidistant from this. A novice should mark these
lines with a pencil at first.
Now comes a difficult task, that of putting on the feathers. Many ways
and means have been devised, and in target arrows nothing is better
than just sticking them on by hand. Some have used clamps, some use
pins, some lash the feathers on at the extremities with thread, and
then glue beneath them. We take the oldest of all methods, which is
shown in the specimens of old Saxon arrows rescued from the Nylander
boat in Holland, 
[Footnote 1: See _Archer's Register_ of 1912.]
also depicted in many old English paintings--that of binding the
feathers with a piece of thread running spirally up the shaft between
Starting at a point six inches from the nock, set your thick end of the
rib in position on the lines of glue. Hold the shaft under your left
arm while with the left thumb, forefinger, and middle finger steady the
feathers as they are respectively put in place. With one end of a piece
of cotton basting thread in your teeth and the spool in your right
hand, start binding the ribs down to the arrow shaft. After a few turns
proceed up the shaftment, adjusting the feathers in position as you
rotate the arrow. Let your basting thread slip between the bristles of
the feather about half an inch apart. When you come to the rear end,
finish up with several overlapping turns and a half-hitch. Line up your
feathers so that they run straight down the shaftment and are
equidistant. Of one thing be very sure--see that your feather runs a
trifle toward the concave side, looking from the rear, and that the
rear end deviates quite perceptibly toward this direction. This insures
proper steering qualities to your arrow. Set it aside and let it dry.
When all are dry, remove the basting thread and trim the ribs to the
pencil marks, leaving them about three-quarters of an inch long. Bevel
their ends to a slender taper.
The next process is that of binding the feathers in position. The
material which we use for this purpose is known as ribonzine, a thin
silk ribbon used to bind candy boxes. In the absence of this, floss
silk may be employed. Cut it into pieces about a foot long. Put a
little liquid glue on the space reserved for binding and, while
revolving the shaft under your arm, apply the ribbon in lapping spirals
over the feather ribs. Cover them completely and have the binding
smooth and well sized in glue. The ribbon near the nock serves to
protect the wood at this point from splitting. When dry, clean your
shaft from ragged excess of glue with knife and sandpaper, and finish
up by running a little diluted glue with a small brush along the side
of the feather ribs to make them doubly secure.
Now comes the painting.
We paint arrows not so much for gayness, as to preserve them against
moisture, to aid in finding them when lost, and to distinguish one
man's shaft from another's.
Chinese vermilion and bright orange are colors which are most
discernible in the grass and undergrowth. With a narrow brush, paint
between your feathers, running up slightly on to the rib, covering the
glue. If your silk ribbon binding is a bright color--mine is green--you
can leave it untouched. We often paint the nock a distinguishing color
to indicate the type of head at the other end, so that in drawing the
shaft from the quiver we can know beforehand what sort it will be. The
livery should be painted in several different rings. My own colors are
red, green, and white.
One or two coats are applied according to the fancy of the archer. The
line between the various pigments should be striped with a thin black
Unless you use a lathe to hold your arrows in the painting process, you
can employ two wooden blocks or rests, one having a shallow countersunk
hole on its lateral face to hold the nock while rotating, the other
having a groove on its upper surface. Clamp these on a bench, or on the
opposite arms of your easy chair before the fire, and you can turn your
shafts slowly by hand while you steady your brush and apply the paint
in even rings.
At this stage I have added a device which seems to be helpful in
nocking arrows in the dark, or while keeping one's eye on the game.
Having put a drop of glue on the ribbon immediately above the nock and
behind the cock feather, I affix a little white glass bead. One can
feel this with his thumb as he nocks his arrow, when in conjunction
with knots on his string, he can perform this maneuver entirely by
The paint having dried, varnish or shellac your arrow its entire
length, avoiding, of course, any contact with the feathers. In due time
sandpaper the shaft and repeat the varnishing. Rub this down with
steelwool and give it a finishing touch with floor wax.
Here we are ready for the arrow-heads.
We use three types of points. The first is a blunt head made by binding
the end of the shaft with thin tinned iron wire for half an inch and
running on solder, then drilling a hole in the end of the shaft and
inserting an inch round-headed screw. In place of soldered wire, one
can use an empty 38-caliber cartridge, either cutting off the base or
drilling out the priming aperture to admit the screw. This type of
arrow we use for rough practice, shooting tin cans, trees, boxes, and
other impedimenta. It makes a good shaft for birds, rabbits, and small
A second type of head we use is made of soft steel about a sixteenth of
an inch thick. We cut it with a hack saw into a blunt, barbed,
lanceolate shape having a blade about an inch long and half an inch
wide, also a tang about the same length and three-eighths of an inch
This we set into a slot sawed in the arrow in the same plane as the
nock, and bind the shaft with tinned wire, number 30, soldered
together. The end of the shaft has a gradual bevel where it meets the
lateral face of the head.
This is a sturdy little point and will stand much abuse. We use it for
shooting birds, squirrels, and small vermin.
But the point that we prefer to shoot is the old English broad-head.
Starting from small dimensions, we have gradually increased its size,
weight and strength and cutting qualities till now we shoot a head
whose blade is three inches long, an inch and a quarter wide, a trifle
less than a thirty-second thick. It has a haft or tubular shank an inch
long. Its weight is half an ounce. The blades are made of spring steel.
After annealing the steel we score it diagonally with a hack saw, when
it may be broken in triangular pieces in a vise. With a cold chisel, an
angular cut is made in the base to form the barbs. With a file and
carborundum stone, they are edged and shaped into blades as sharp as
knives. Soft, cold drawn steel will serve quite as well as spring steel
for these blades, but it does not hold its edge. It may be purchased at
hardware supply depots in the form of strips an inch and a half wide,
by one-thirty-second thick, and is much easier to work than the
Then taking three-eighths number .22 gauge steel or brass tubing, we
smash it to a short bevel on the anvil, file off the corners and cut it
to a length of an inch and three-quarters. This makes the haft or
socket. Fixing a blade, barbs uppermost in the vise, this tubing is
driven lightly into position, the filed edges of the beveled end
permitting the blade to be held between the sides of the tubing. A
small hole is drilled through the tubing and blade, and a soft iron
wire rivet is inserted. The blade is held over a gas flame while the
joint between it and the tubing is filled with soft soldering compound
and ribbon solder.
The heated head is plunged into water and later finished with file and
emery cloth. The whole process of making a steel broad-head requires
about twenty minutes. Every archer should manufacture his own. Then he
will treat them with more respect. Very few artisans can make them, and
if they can, their price is exorbitant.
Be sure that your heads are straight and true. To set them on your
shaft, cut the wood to fit, then heat a bit of ferrule cement and set
them on in the same plane as the nock. In the absence of ferrule
cement, which can be had at all sporting goods stores, one can use
chewing gum, or better yet, a mixture of caoutchouc pitch and scale
shellac heated together in equal parts. Heat your fixative as you would
sealing wax, over a candle, also heat the arrow and the metal head. Put
on with these adhesives, it seldom pulls off. In the wilds we often fix
the head with pine resin. Glue can be used, but it is not so good.
Having brought your arrows to this stage, the next act is to trim the
feathers. First run them gently through the hand and smooth out their
veins; then with long-bladed scissors cut them so that the anterior end
is three-eighths of an inch high, while the posterior extremity is one
inch. I also cut the rear tip of the feather diagonally across,
removing about half an inch to prevent it getting in the way of the
fingers when on the string.
Mr. Arthur Young cuts his feathers in a long parabola with a die made
of a knife blade bent into shape. These things are largely a matter of
Look your arrows over; see that they are straight and that the feathers
are in good shape, then shoot them to observe their flight. Number them
above the ribbon so that you can keep record of their performances. The
weight of such an arrow is one and one-half ounces.
The small blunt, barb-headed arrows we often paint red their entire
length. Because they are meant for use in the brush, they are more
readily lost; the bright color saves many a shaft.
To make a hunting arrow requires about an hour, and one should be
willing to look for one almost this time when it is lost. Finding
arrows is an acquired art. Don't forget the advice of Bassanio: "In my
school days when I had lost one shaft, I shot his fellow of the
self-same flight, the self-same way, with more advised watch to find
the other forth; and by adventuring both, I oft found both."
If, indeed, the shaft cannot be found, then give it up with good grace,
remembering that after all it is pleasant work to make one. Dedicate it
to the cause of archery with the hope that in future days some one may
pick it up and, pricking his finger on the barb, become inoculated with
the romance of archery.
When an arrow lodges in a root or tree, we work the head back and forth
very carefully to withdraw it. A little pair of pliers comes in very
handy here. If it is buried deeply we cut the wood away from it with a
hunting knife. Blunt arrows, called bird bolts by Shakespeare, are best
to shoot up in the branches of trees at winged and climbing game.
In our quivers we usually carry several light shafts we call eagle
arrows, because they are designed principally for shooting at this
Once while hunting deer, and observing a doe and fawn drinking at a
pool, we saw a magnificent golden eagle swoop down, catch the startled
fawn and lift it from the ground. Mr. Compton and I, having such arrows
in our quivers, let fly at the struggling bird of prey. We came so
close that the eagle loosened the grip of his talons and the fawn
dropped to earth and sped off with its mother, safe for the time being.
[Illustration: SEVERAL STEPS IN ARROW MAKING]
Often we have shot at hawks and eagles high up in the air, where to
reach them we needed a very light arrow, and they have had many close
calls. For these we use a five-sixteenths dowel, feather it with short,
low cut parabolic feathers and put a small barbed head on it about an
inch in length. Such an arrow we paint dark green, blue, or black, so
that the bird cannot discern its flight.
It is great sport to shoot at some lazy old buzzard as he comes within
range. He can see the ordinary arrow, and if you shoot close, he
dodges, swoops downward, flops sidewise, twists his head round and
round, and speeds up to leave the country. He presents the comic
picture of a complacent old gentleman suddenly disturbed in his
monotonous existence and frightened into a most unbecoming loss of
Eagle arrows can be used for lofty flights, to span great canyons, to
rout the chattering bluejay from the topmost limb of a pine, and sooner
or later we shall pierce an eagle on the wing.
We make another kind of shaft that we call a "floo-floo." In Thompson's
_Witchery of Archery_ he describes an arrow that his Indian companion
used, which gave forth such a fluttering whistle when in flight that
they called it by this euphonious name. This is made by constructing
the usual blunt screw-headed shaft and fledging it with wide uncut
feathers. It is useful in shooting small game in the brush, because its
flight is impeded and, missing the game, it soon loses momentum and
stops. It does not bound off into the next county, but can be found
near by. As a rule, these are steady, straight fliers for a short
In finishing the nock of an arrow, it should be filed so that it fits
the string rather snugly, thus when in place it is not easily disturbed
by the ordinary accidents of travel. Still this tightness should be at
the entrance of the nock, while the bottom of the nock is made a trifle
more roomy with a round file. I file all my nocks to fit a certain
two-inch wire nail whose diameter is just that of my bowstring.
After arrows have been shot for a time and their feathers have settled,
they should again be trimmed carefully to their final proportions. The
heads, if found too broad for perfect flight, should be ground a trifle
When hunting, one does well to carry in his pocket a small flat file
with which to sharpen his broad-heads before shooting them. They should
have a serrated, meat-cutting edge. Even carrying arrows in a quiver
tends to dull them, because they chafe each other while in motion. From
time to time you should rub the shafts and heads with the mixture of
cedar and linseed oil, thus keeping them clean and protected from
On a hunting trip an archer should carry with him in his repair kit,
extra feathers, heads, cement, a tube of glue, ribonzine, linen thread,
wax, paraffin, sandpaper, emery cloth, pincers, file and small
scissors. With these he can salvage many an arrow that otherwise would
be too sick to shoot.
Extra arrows are carried in a light wooden box which has little
superimposed racks on which they rest and are kept from crushing each
As a rule, nothing does an arrow so much good as to shoot it, and
nothing so much harm as to have it lie inactive and crowded in the
The flight of an arrow is symbolic of life itself. It springs from the
bow with high aim, flies toward the blue heaven above, and seems to
have immortal power. The song of its life is sweet to the ear. The rush
of its upward arc is a promise of perpetual progress. With perfect
grace it sweeps onward, though less aspiring. Then fluttering
imperceptibly, it points downward and with ever-increasing speed,
approaches the earth, where, with a deep sigh, it sinks in the soil,
quivers with spent energy, and capitulates to the inevitable.
Besides a bow and arrow, the archer needs to have a quiver, a bow case,
a waterproof quiver case, an arm guard or bracer, and a shooting glove
or leather finger tips. Our quivers are made of untanned deer hide,
usually from deer shot with the bow. The hide, having been properly
cleaned, stretched, and dried, is cut down the center, each half making
a quiver. Marking a quadrilateral outline twenty-four inches on two
sides, twelve at the larger end, and nine at the smaller, in such a way
that the hair points from the larger to the smaller end; cut this piece
and soak it in water until soft, and wash it clean with soap. At the
same time cut a circular piece off the tough neck skin, three inches in
With a furrier's needle having three sharp edges, and heavy waxed
thread, or better yet, with catgut, sew up the longer sides of the skin
with a simple overcast stitch. Let the hair side be in while sewing. In
the smaller end sew the circular bottom. Invert the quiver on a stick;
turn back a cuff of hide one inch deep at the top. To do this nicely,
the hair should be clipped away at this point. This cuff stiffens the
mouth of the quiver and keeps it always open.
Now put your quiver over a wooden form to dry.
[Illustration: ARROW HEADS OF VARIOUS SORTS USED IN HUNTING]
I have one like a shoemaker's last, made of two pieces of wood
separated by a thin slat which can be removed, permitting easy
withdrawal of the quiver after drying. When dry, your quiver will be
about twenty-two inches deep, four inches across the top, and slightly
Cut a strip of deer hide eight inches long by one and a half wide,
shave it, double the hair side in, and attach it to the seamy side of
the quiver by perforating the leather and inserting a lacing of
buckskin thongs. Leave the loop of this strap projecting two inches
above the top of the quiver. In the bottom of your quiver drop a round
piece of felt or carpet to prevent the arrow points coming through the
If you are not so fortunate as to have deer hide, you may use any stiff
leather, or even canvas. This latter can be made stiff by painting or
Such a receptacle will hold a dozen broad-heads very comfortably and
several more under pressure. It should swing from a belt at the right
hip in such a way that in walking it does not touch the leg, while in
shooting it is accessible to the right hand or may then be shifted
slightly to the front for convenience.
In running we usually grasp the quiver in the right hand, not only to
prevent it interfering with locomotion, but to keep the arrows from
rattling and falling out. When on the trail of an animal we habitually
stuff a twig of leaves, a bunch of ferns or a bit of grass in the mouth
of the quiver to damp the soft rustling of the arrows. Sometimes, in
going through brush or when running, we carry the quiver on a belt
slung over the left shoulder. Here they are out of the way and give the
legs full action.
To keep the arrows dry, and to cover them while traveling, we make a
sheath for the quiver of waterproof muslin. This is long enough to
cover the arrows and has a wire ring a bit larger than the top of the
quiver sewn in the cloth some three inches from the upper end. This
keeps the feathers from being crushed. The mouth of this cover is
closed with a drawstring. On the side adjacent to the strap of the
quiver, an aperture is cut to permit this being brought through and
fastened to the belt.
The bow itself has a long narrow case made of the same cloth, or
canvas, or green baize with a drawstring at the top and a leather tip
at the bottom. Where several bows are packed together, each has a
woolen bow case and all are carried in a canvas bag, composition
carrying cylinder, or in a wooden bow box. In hunting we prefer the
canvas bag, but you must carry it yourself, any one else will break
The bracer, or arm guard, is a cuff of leather worn on the left forearm
to prevent the stroke of the bowstring doing damage. Some archers can
shoot without this protection, but others, because of their style of
shooting or their anatomical formation, need it. It can be made like a
butcher's cuff, some six or eight inches long, partially surrounding
the forearm and fastened by three little straps or by lacing in the
back. Another form is simply a strip of thin sole leather from two to
three inches wide by eight long, having little straps and buckles
attached to hold it in position on the flexor surface of the wrist and
[Illustration: NECESSARY ARCHERY EQUIPMENT]
The bracer not only keeps the arm from injury, but makes for a clean
release of the arrow. Anything such as a coat sleeve touching the
bowstring when in action, diverts the arrow in its flight. On the
sleeve of your shooting jersey you can sew a piece of leather for an
While one may pick up a bow and shoot a few shots without a glove or
finger protection, he soon will be compelled to cease because of
soreness. Doubtless the ancient yeoman, a horny-handed son of toil,
needed no glove. But we know that even in those days a tab of leather
was held in the hand to prevent the string from hurting. The glove
probably is of more modern use and quite in favor among target archers.
We have found it rather hot in hunting, so have resorted to leather
finger tips. These are best made of pigskin or cordovan leather, which
is horse hide. This should be about a sixteenth of an inch thick and
cut to such a form that the tips enclose the finger on the palmar
surface up to the second joint and leave an oval opening over the
knuckle and upper part of the finger nail. The best way to make them is
to mould a piece of paper about each of the first three fingers on the
right hand, gathering the paper on the back and crimping it with the
thumb nail to show where to cut the pattern. Lay the paper out flat and
cut it approximately according to the illustrated form.
Transferring these outlines to the leather, cut three pieces
accordingly, soak them in water and sew them. This stitching is best
done by previously punching holes along the edges with a fine awl and
sewing an overcast stitch of waxed linen thread which, having reached
the end, returns backward on its course through the same holes. This
makes a criss-cross effect which is strong and pleasing to the eye.
The ends of the finger cots should be sewed closed, protecting the
fingers from injury and keeping out dirt. While the leather is still
soft and damp, place the tips on the fingers and press them home. At
the same time flex them strongly at the joints and try to keep them
bent there. Such angulation helps not only in holding the bowstring,
but keeps the tip from coming off under pressure. When dry, these
leather stalls should be numbered according to the finger to which they
belong, coated lightly with thin glue on the inside and waxed on the
outer surface. Then they are ready for use.
An archer should have two sets of tips so that, should misfortune
befall him and he loses one, he is not altogether undone. When not in
use keep them in your pocket or strung on the strap of your bracer. In
by-gone days they were sewed to straps which fastened to a wrist belt,
thus were more secure from loss, but more cumbersome.
From time to time oil your tips and always keep them from being
roughened or scratched. With a small amount of glue in the tip one has
only to moisten his fingers in his mouth and the leather stall will
stick on firmly. We have also used lead plaster of the pharmacopoeia
for the same adhesive purpose.
In the absence of pockets in ancient days, the archer carried his extra
equipment in a wallet slung at his waist. Even now it seems a handy
thing to have a deerskin wallet six by eight inches, by an inch or more
deep. I frequently carry my tips, extra string, wax, file wrapped in a
cloth, and a bit of lunch, in such a receptacle.
With his bow, his quiver, a wallet, our modern archer is ready and
could step into Sherwood Forest feeling quite at home.
HOW TO SHOOT
First, brace your bow. To do this properly, grasp it at the handle with
your right hand, the upper horn upward and the back toward you. Place
the lower horn at the instep of your right foot, and the base of your
left palm against the back of the bow, near the top below the loop of
the string. Holding your left arm stiff and toward your left side, your
right elbow fixed on your hip, pull up on the handle by twisting your
body so that the bow is sprung away from you. The string is now
relaxed, and the fingers of the left hand push it upward till it slips
in the nock.
Don't try to force the string, and don't get your fingers caught
beneath it. Do most of the work with the right hand pulling against the
rigid left arm.
The proper distance between the bow and the string at the handle is six
inches. This is ordinarily measured by setting the fist on the handle
and the thumb sticking upright, where it should touch the string. This
is the ancient fistmele, an archer's measure, also used in measuring
Hunting bows should be strung a little less than this because of the
prolonged strain on them. Target bows shoot cleaner when higher strung.
Change your bow to your left hand and drop the arm so that the upper
end of the bow swings across the body in a horizontal position. Draw an
arrow from the quiver with the right hand and carry it across the bow
till it rests on the left side at the top of the handle. Place the left
forefinger over the shaft and keep it from slipping while you shift
your right hand to the arrow-nock, thumb uppermost. Push the arrow
forward, at the same time rotating it until the cock feather, or that
perpendicular to the nock, is away from the bow. As the feathers pass
over the string and the thumb still rests on the nock, slip the fingers
beneath the string and fit it in the arrow-nock.
Now turn the bow upright and remove your left forefinger from its
position across the shaft. The arrow should rest on the knuckles
without lateral support. Now place your fingers in position for
shooting. The release used by the old English is the best. This
consists in placing three fingers on the string, one above the arrow,
two below. The string rests midway between the last joint and the tip
of the finger. The thumb should not touch the arrow, but lie curled up
in the palm.
The release used by children consists in pinching the arrow between the
thumb and forefinger, and is known as the primary loose. This type is
not strong enough to draw an arrow half way on a hunting bow.
Stand sidewise to your mark, with the feet eight or ten inches apart,
at right angles to the line of shot. Straighten your body, stiffen the
back, expand the chest, turn the head fully facing the mark, look at it
squarely, and draw your bow across the body, extending the left arm as
you draw the right hand toward the chin.
Draw the arrow steadily, in the exact plane of your mark, so that when
the full draw is obtained and the arrowhead touches the left hand, the
right forefinger touches a spot on the jaw perpendicularly below the
right eye and the right elbow is in a continuous line with the arrow.
This point on the jaw below the eye is fixed and never varies; no
matter how close or how far the shot, the butt of the arrow is always
drawn to the jaw, not to the eye, nor to the ear. Thus the eye glances
along the entire length of the shaft and keeps it in perfect line. The
bow hand may be lowered or raised to obtain the proper elevation and
length of flight. The left arm is held rigidly but not absolutely
extended and locked at the elbow. A slight degree of flexion here makes
for a good clearance of the string and adds resiliency to the shot.
The arrow is released by drawing the right hand further backward at the
same time the fingers slip off the string. This must be done so firmly,
yet deftly, that no loss of power results, and the releasing hand does
not draw the arrow out of line. Two great faults occur at this point:
one is to permit the arrow to creep forward just before the release,
and the other is to draw the hand away from the face in the act of
releasing. Keep your fingers flexed and your hand by your jaw. All the
fingers of the right hand must bear their proper share of work. The
great tendency is to permit the forefinger to shirk and to put too much
work on the ring finger.
If the arrow has a tendency to fall away from the bow, tip the upper
limb ten degrees to the right and pull more on the right forefinger,
also start the draw with the fingers more acutely flexed, so that as
the arrow is pinched between the first and second fingers and as they
tend to straighten out under the pressure of the string, the arrow is
pressed against the bow, not away from it.
In grasping the bow with the left hand, it should rest comfortably in
the palm and loosely at the beginning of the draw. The knuckle at the
base of the thumb should be opposite the center of the bow, the hand
set straight on the wrist. As you draw, be sure that the arrow comes up
in a straight line with your mark, otherwise the bow will be twisted in
the grasp and deflect the shot. Then fully drawn, set the grasp of the
left hand without disturbing the position of the bow, make the left arm
as rigid as an oak limb; fix the muscles of the chest; make yourself
inflexible from head to toe. Keep your right elbow up and rivet your
gaze upon your mark; release in a direct line backward. Everything must
be under the greatest tension, any weakening spoils your flight.
The method of aiming in game shooting consists in fixing binocular
vision on the object to be hit, drawing the nock of the arrow beneath
the right eye and observing that the head of the arrow is in a direct
line with the mark by the indirect vision of the right eye. Both eyes
are open, both see the mark, but only the right observes the arrowhead,
the left ignores it. Your vision must be so concentrated upon one point
that all else fades from view. Just two things exist--your mark and
At a range of sixty or eighty yards, the head of the arrow seems to
touch the mark while aiming. This is called point blank range. At
shorter lengths the archer must estimate the distance below the mark on
which his arrow seems to rest in order to rise in a parabolic curve and
strike the spot. At greater ranges he must estimate a distance above
the mark on which he holds his arrow in order to drop it on the object
of his shot.
If his shaft flies to the left, it is because he has not drawn the nock
beneath his right eye, or he has thrown his head out of line, or the
string has hit his shirt sleeve or something has deflected the arrow.
If it falls to the right, it is because he has made a forward, creeping
release, or weakened in his bow arm, or in drawing to the center of the
jaw instead of the angle beneath the eye.
If the arrow rattles on the bow as it is released, or slaps it hard in
passing, it is because it is not drawn up in true line, or because it
fits too tightly on the string, or because the release is creeping and
weak. Always draw fully up to the barb.
If his arrows drop low and all else is right, it is because he has not
kept his tension, or has lowered his bow arm.
After the arrow is released, the archer should hold his posture a
second, bow arm rigidly extended, drawing hand to his jaw, right elbow
horizontal. This insures that he maintains the proper position during
the shot. There should be no jerking, swinging, or casting motions; all
must be done evenly and deliberately.
The shaft should fly from the bowstring like a bird, without quaver or
flutter. All depends upon a sharp resilient release.
Having observed all the prerequisites of good shooting, nothing so
insures a keen, true arrow flight as an effort of supreme tension
during the release. The chest is held rigid in a position of moderate
inspiration, the back muscles are set and every tendon is drawn into
elastic strain; in fact, to be successful, the whole act should be
characterized by the utmost vigor.
To get the best instructions for shooting the bow, one should read Sir
Roger Ascham in _Toxophilus_, and Horace Ford on _Archery._
Game shooting differs from target shooting in that with the latter a
point of aim is used, and the archer fixes his eyes upon this point
which is perpendicular above or below the bull's-eye. The arrowhead is
held on the point of aim, and when loosed, flies not along the line of
vision, but describes a curve upward, descends and strikes not the
point of aim, but the bull's-eye.
The field archer should learn to estimate distances correctly by eye.
He should practice pacing measured lengths, so that he can tell how
many yards any object may be from him.
In hunting he should make a mental note of this before he shoots. In
fact we nearly always call the number of yards before we loose the
Where a strong cross-wind exists, a certain amount of windage is
allowed. But up to sixty yards the lateral deflexion from wind is
negligible; past this it may amount to three or four feet.
In clout shooting and target practice, one must take wind into
consideration. In hunting we only consider it when approaching game, as
a carrier of scent, because our hunting ranges are well under a hundred
yards and our heavy hunting shafts tack into the wind with little
[Illustration: AN ARCHER'S MEASURE, A FISTMELE]
[Illustration: THE ENGLISH METHOD OF DRAWING THE ARROW]
[Illustration: NOCKING THE SHAFT ON THE STRING]
[Illustration: THE LONG BOW FULL DRAWN]
No matter how much a man may shoot, he is forever struggling with his
technique. I remember getting a letter from an old archer who had shot
the bow for more than fifty years. He was past seventy and had to
resort to a thirty-five pound weapon. He complained that his release
was faulty, but he felt that with a little more practice he could
perfect his loose and make a perfect shot. Since writing he has entered
the Happy Hunting Grounds, still a trifle off in form.
Even a sylvan archer needs to practice form at the targets. He should
study the game from its scientific principles as formulated by Horace
Ford, the greatest target shot ever known.
The point-of-aim system and target practice improve one's hunting.
Hunting, on the other hand, spoils one's target work. The use of heavy
bows so accustoms the muscles to gross reactions that they fail to
adjust themselves to the finer requirements of light bows and to the
precise technique of the target range.
The field archer gets his practice by going out in the open and
shooting at marks of any sort, at all distances, from five to two
hundred yards. A bush, a stray piece of paper, a flower, a shadow on
the grass, all are objects for his shafts.
The open heath, shaded forest, hills and dales, all make good grounds.
As he comes over a knoll a bush on the farther side represents a deer,
he shoots instantly. He must learn to run, to stop short and shoot,
fresh or weary he must be able to draw his bow and discharge one arrow
after another. With the bow unstrung walking along the trail, often we
have stopped at the word of command, strung the bow, drawn an arrow
from the quiver, nocked it, and discharged it within the space of five
seconds. Deliberation, however, is much more desirable.
Let several archers go into the fields together and roam over the land,
aiming at various marks; it makes for robust and accurate game
Shooting an exact line is much easier than getting the exact length.
For this reason it is easier to split the willow wand at sixty or
eighty yards than it seems.
Often we have tried this feat to amuse ourselves or our friends, and
seldom more than six arrows are needed to strike such a lath or stick
at this distance. Hitting objects tossed in the air is not so difficult
either. A small tin can or box thrown fifteen or twenty feet upward at
a distance of ten or fifteen yards can be hit nearly every time,
especially if the archer waits until it just reaches the apex of its
course and shoots when it is practically stationary.
Shooting at swinging objects helps to train one in leading running or
Turtle shooting, that form in which the arrow is discharged directly
upward and is supposed to drop on the mark, is difficult and attended
with few hits, but it trains one in estimating wind drift.
An archer should also learn the elevation or trajectory at which his
arrows fly at various distances. Shooting in the woods over hanging
limbs may interfere with a good shot. In this case the archer can kneel
and thus lower his flight to avoid interception.
In kneeling it seems that the right knee should be on the ground, while
the left foot is forward. This is a natural pose to assume during
walking, and the left thigh should be held out of the way of the
bow-string. When not in use, but braced, the bow should be carried in
the left hand, the string upward, the tip pointing forward. It never
should be swung about like a club nor shouldered like a gun.
Shooting from horseback is not impossible, but it must be done off the
left side of the horse, and a certain amount of practice is necessary
for the horse as well as for the archer.
It is surprising how accurately one can shoot at night. Even the
dimmest outline will serve the bowman, and his shaft has an uncanny way
of finding the mark.
When it comes to missing the mark, that is the subject for a sad story.
It takes an inveterate optimist to stand the moral strain of persistent
missing. In fact, it is this that spoils the archery career of many a
tyro--he gives up in despair. It looks so easy, but really is so
difficult to hit the mark. But do not be cast down, keep eternally at
practice, and ultimately you will be rewarded. Nothing stands a man in
such good stead in this matter as to have started shooting in his
And do not imagine that we are infallible in our shooting. Some of the
most humiliating moments of our lives have come through poor shooting.
Just when we wanted to do our best, before an expectant gathering, we
have done our most stupid missing. But even this has its compensations
and inures us to defeat.
It is a striking fact that we shoot better when confronted by the game
itself. Under actual hunting conditions you will hit closer to your
point than on the target field.
Study every move for clean, accurate shooting, and analyze your
failures so that you can correct your faults. Extreme care and utmost
effort will be rewarded by greater accuracy.
Other things being equal, it is the man who shoots with his heart in
his bow that hits the mark.
THE PRINCIPLES OP HUNTING
In the early dawn of life man took up weapons against the beasts about
him. With club, ax, spear, knife, and sling he protected himself or
sought his game. To strike at a distance, he devised the bow. With the
implements of the chase he has won his way in the world.
Today there is no need to battle with the beasts of prey and little
necessity to kill wild animals for food; but still the hunting instinct
persists. The love of the chase still thrills us and all the misty past
echoes with the hunter's call.
In the joy of hunting is intimately woven the love of the great
outdoors. The beauty of woods, valleys, mountains, and skies feeds the
soul of the sportsman where the quest of game only whets his appetite.
After all, it is not the killing that brings satisfaction, it is the
contest of skill and cunning. The true hunter counts his achievement in
proportion to the effort involved and the fairness of the sport.
With the rapid development of firearms, hunting tends to lose its
sporting quality. The killing of game is becoming too easy; there is
little triumph and less glory than in the days of yore. Game
preservation demands a limitation of armament. We should do well to
abandon the more powerful and accurate implements of destruction, and
revert to the bow.
Here we have a weapon of beauty and romance. He who shoots with a bow,
puts his life's energy into it. The force behind the flying shaft must
be placed there by the archer. At the moment of greatest strain he must
draw every sinew to the utmost; his hand must be steady; his nerves
under absolute control; his eye keen and clear. In the hunt he pits his
well-trained skill against the instinctive cunning of his quarry. By
the most adroit cleverness, he must approach within striking distance,
and when he speeds his low whispering shaft and strikes his game, he
has won by the strength of arm and nerve. It is a noble sport.
However, not all temperaments are suited to archery. There must be
something within the deeper memories of his inheritance to which the
bow appeals. A mere passing fancy will not suffice to make him an
archer. It is the unusual person who will overcome the early
difficulties and persevere with the bow through love of it.
The real archer when he goes afield enters a land of subtle delight.
The dew glistens on the leaves, the thrush sings in the bush, the soft
wind blows, and all nature welcomes him as she has the hunter since the
world began. With his bow in his hand, his arrows softly rustling in
the quiver, a horn at his back, and a hound at his heels, what more can
a man want in life?
In America our hearts have heard the low whistle of the flying arrow
and the sweet hum of the bowstring singing in the book, _The Witchery
of Archery_ by Maurice Thompson. To Will and Maurice Thompson we owe a
debt of gratitude hard to pay. The tale of their sylvan exploits in the
everglades of Florida has a charm that borders on the fay. We who shoot
the bow today are children of their fantasy, offspring of their magic.
As the parents of American archery, we offer them homage and honor.
Ernest Thompson Seton is another patron of archery to whom all who have
read _Two Little Savages_ must be eternally grateful. Not only has he
given us a reviving touch of the outdoors, but he puts the bow and
arrow in its true setting, a background of nature.
When Arthur Young, Will Compton, and I began hunting with the bow, we
wrote Will Thompson to join us. Because he is such a commanding figure
in the history of our craft, I think it proper to quote from one of his
"MY DEAR DR. POPE:
"The _Sunset Magazine_ containing your charming account of Ishi and
your hunting adventures, and the bunch of photographs of the transfixed
deer, quail, and rabbits came duly, and are mine, now, tomorrow, and
for life. You were very fortunate to have won your archery triumphs
where you could photograph them. I would give much indeed if I could
have photos of the scenes of my brother's and my successes in the
somber and game-thronged wilds of the gloomy Okefinokee Swamp. I think
I sent you long ago the two numbers of _Forest and Stream_ in which the
history of that most wonderful of all my outings appeared. If I did not
do so I will loan you the only copy I have. Let me know.
"I am glad, so glad, that you young athletic men are following the wild
trails armed with the most romantic weapon man ever fashioned, and I
would give almost any precious thing I hold to fare with you once to
the game land of your choice, and to watch and wait by a slender trail
while you and your young, strong comrades stole through the secret
haunts of the wild things, and to listen to the faint footfalls of the
coming deer, roused by your entrance into their secret lairs. To see
the soft and devious approach of the wary thing; to see the lifted
light head turned sharply back toward the evil that roused it from its
bed of ferns; to feel the strong bow tightening in my hand as the thin,
hard string comes back; to feel the leap of the loosened cord, the jar
of the bow, and see the long streak of the going shaft, and hear the
almost sickening 'chuck' of the stabbing arrow. No one can know how I
have loved the woods, the streams, the trails of the wild, the ways of
the things of slender limbs, of fine nose, of great eager ears, of mild
wary eyes, and of vague and half-revealed forms and colors. I have been
their friend and mortal enemy. I have so loved them that I longed to
kill them. But I gave them far more than a fair chance.
"How many I have missed to one I have killed! How often the fierce
arrow hissed its threat close by the wide ears! How often the puff of
lifted feathers has marked the innocuous passage of my very best arrow!
How often the roar of wings has replied to the 'chuck' of my
steel-head shaft as it stabbed the tree branch under the grouse's feet!
_Oh, le bon temps, que de siecle de fer_.
"Let me know whether I sent you _Deep in Okefinokee Swamp_. I enclose
you a little poem published long ago in _Forest and Stream_ and picked
up by the _Literary Digest_ and other periodicals. You will, I think,
feel the love of the bow, and the outdoors, as well as the great cry
for the lost brother running through the long sob that pervades it.
"Send me anything you publish, for I know I should be pleased. Love to
you and a handgrasp to your comrade archers.
After the Civil War, where both youths fought in the Confederate Army
and Maurice was wounded, they returned to their Southern home, broken
in health, reduced in circumstances, and deprived of firearms by
Government restrictions. They turned to the bow and hunting as
naturally as a boy turns to play. Out of their experiences we have a
lyric of exquisite purity, _The Witchery of Archery_.
As a result of the interest stimulated by the recount of their
exploits, the National Archery Association was established and held its
first tournament at Chicago in the year 1879. It has ever since
nurtured the sport and furthered competitive enthusiasm.
Maurice later became a noted author, Will an attorney-at-law, the dean
of American archers and a poet of remarkably happy expression. Here I
feel at liberty to insert one of Will Thompson's verses, sent me in
AN ARROW SONG
A song from green Floridian vales I heard,
Soft as the sea-moan when the waves are slow;
Sweeter than melody of brook or bird,
Keener than any winds that breathe or blow;
A magic music out of memory stirred,
A strain that charms my heart to overflow
With such vast yearning that my eyes are blurred.
Oh, song of dreams, that I no more shall know!
Bewildering carol without spoken word!
Faint as a stream's voice murmuring under snow,
Sad as a love forevermore deferred,
Song of the arrow from the Master's bow,
Sung in Floridian vales long, long ago.
WILL H. THOMPSON.
_A memory of my brother Maurice._
The Thompsons devoted much of their bow shooting to birds. Not only did
they hunt, but they studied the abundant avian life of the Florida
An archer must always, perforce, study animate nature and learn its
ways before he can capture it. In our early training with Ishi, the
Indian, he taught us to look before he taught us to shoot. "Little bit
walk, too much look," was his motto. The roving eye and the light step
are the signs of the forest voyageur.
The ideal way for an archer to travel is to carry on his shoulders a
knapsack containing a light sleeping bag and enough food to last him a
week. With me this means coffee, tea, sugar, canned milk, dried fruit,
rice, cornmeal, flour and baking powder mixture, a little bacon,
butter, and seasoning. This will weigh less than ten pounds. With other
minor appurtenances in the ditty bag, including an arrow-repairing kit,
one's burden is less than twenty pounds, an easy load.
If you have a dog, make him carry his own dry meal in little
saddle-bags on his back, as Dan Beard suggests. Then, with two dozen
arrows in your quiver, and your bow, the open trail lies ahead. There
is always meat to be had for the shooting. The camp fire and your dog
are companions at night, and at dawn all the world rolls out before you
as you go. It is a happy life!
When Ishi started to shoot with me, one bowman after another appeared
on the scene to join us. Among the first came Will Compton, a man of
mature years and many experiences. Brought up on the plains, he learned
to shoot the bow with the Sioux Indians. As a boy of fourteen he shot
his first deer with an arrow. From that time on, deer, elk, antelope,
birds of all sorts, and even buffalo fell before this primitive weapon.
He later hunted with the gun until the very ease of killing turned him
against it. So when he came to us, he was a seasoned archer. Upon a
visit to a Japanese archery gallery in the Panama-Pacific Exposition he
met for the first time Arthur Young, also an expert hunter with the
gun. A friendship sprang up between them, and Compton taught Young to
shoot the bow.
Compton had worked in the shop of Barnes, the bowmaker of Forest Grove,
Oregon, and later he went into the Cascade Mountains and cut yew staves
with an idea of selling them to the English bowyers. The Great War of
1914 prevented this, and so we had an unlimited supply of yew wood for
We three gravitated together and shot with Ishi until his last sickness
and departure. Then our serious work began. We found it not only a
delightful way of hunting, but a trio makes success more certain in the
In California there is an abundance of game; small animals exist
everywhere and there is no better training than to stalk the wary
ground squirrel or the alert cottontail. These every archer should
school himself to hit before he ventures after larger beasts.
Infinite patience and practice are needed to make a hunter. He must
earn his right to take life by the painful effort of constant shooting.
We shot together, and many are the bags of game we filled. We
discovered in the humble ground squirrel a delectable morsel more
palatable than chicken; re-discovered it, we may say, because the
Indian knew it first. In killing these little pests we take to the open
fields, approach a burrow by creeping up a gully or dip in the land,
rise up and shoot at such distances as we can. I recall one day when
Young and I got twenty-four squirrels with the bow. Upon another
occasion Young by himself secured seventeen in one morning; the last
five were killed with five successive arrows, the last squirrel being
forty-two paces away.
Rabbits are best hunted in company. Here the startled rodent skips
briskly off, down his accustomed run, only to meet another archer
standing motionless, ready with his arrow.
It seems legitimate with this rudimentary weapon to shoot animals on
the stand, or set, a sporting permit not granted to the devotee of the
shotgun, who has a hundred chances to our one.
We found from the very first that the arrow was more humane than the
gun. Counting all hunters, for every animal brought home with the gun,
whether duck, quail, or deer, at least two are hit and die in pain in
Just to illustrate this, Mr. Young reported to me the results of his
shooting with a small rifle at ground squirrels. So expert is he that
to hit a squirrel in any spot but the head is quite unusual. In one
day's shooting between himself and his young son, they hit thirty-six
animals, sixteen of these escaped and disappeared down their burrows,
there to die later of their wounds.
[Illustration: THE PATRON SAINTS OF AMERICAN ARCHERY, WILL AND MAURICE
THOMPSON, AS THEY APPEARED IN 1878]
With the arrow it is different. Not only is the destructive power as
great as a small bullet, but the shaft holds the animal so that it
cannot escape. Practically none are lost in our hunts. A strange
phenomenon is seen in larger animals; they are easier to kill with an
arrow than small ones. A shot in either the chest or abdominal cavity
of a deer is invariably fatal in a few minutes; while a rabbit may
carry an arrow off until the obstructing undergrowth checks his flight.
It seems that their vital areas and blood vessels being smaller, are
less readily injured by the missile. A bullet can crash into the brain
of an animal, tear out a mass of tissue and generally shatter his
structure, but cause little bleeding. An arrow wound is clean-cut and
the hemorrhage is tremendous, but if not immediately fatal, it heals
readily and does little harm. The pain is no greater with the arrow
than with the bullet.
Our hunting of squirrel and rabbits was merely preparatory to the
taking of larger game; but even on our more pretentious expeditions, we
fill the vacant hours with lesser shooting and fill the camp kettle
with sweet tidbits.
Many a quail, partridge, sage hen, or grouse has flown from the heather
into our bag transfixed by a feathered shaft. Both Compton and Young
have shot ducks and geese, some on the wing. But we cannot compete with
the experiences of Maurice Thompson who, shooting ninety-eight arrows,
landed sixteen ducks on the wing.
Some amusing incidents have occurred in bird shooting. We consider the
bluejay a legitimate mark any day; he is a rascal of the deepest dye,
so we always shoot at him. Compton once tried one of his long shots at
a jay on the ground nearly eighty yards off. His line was good, but his
shot fell short. The arrow skidded and struck the bird in the tail just
as he left the ground for flight. The two rose together and sailed off
into space, like an aeroplane, with a preposterously long rudder, the
arrow out behind. They slowly wheeled in a circle a hundred yards in
diameter when the bird, nearing the archer, fell exhausted at his feet.
Compton picked up the jay, drew the arrow from the shallow skin wound
above his tail, and tossed him in the air. He disappeared with a volley
With an arrow it is also possible to shoot fish. Many wise old trout,
incurious and contented, deep in the shadowed pool, have been coaxed to
the frying pan through the archer's skill. Well I recall once, how
shooting fish not only brought us meat, but changed our luck. Young and
I were on a bear hunt. It had been a long, weary and unsuccessful quest
of the elusive beast. Bears seemed to have become extinct, so we took
to shooting trout in a quiet little meadow stream. Having buried an
arrow in the far bank, with a short run and a leap Young cleared the
brook and landed on the greensward beyond. The succulent turf slipped
beneath his feet and, like an acrobat, the archer turned a back
somersault into the cold mountain water. Bow, clattering arrows,
camera, field glasses and man, all sank beneath the limpid surface.
With a shout of laughter he clambered to the bank, his faithful bow
still in his hand, his quiver empty of arrows, but full of water. After
a hasty salvage of all damaged goods, we journeyed along, no worse for
the wetting. But immediately we began to see bear signs and ultimately
got our bruin. Young later said that if he had known the change of luck
that went with a good ducking, he would have tried it sooner.
We have often been asked if we do not poison our arrow points. Most
people seem to have the idea that an arrow is too impotent to cause
death; they conceive it a refined sort of torture and have no
conception of its destructive nature.
It is true that we thought at first of putting poison on our arrows
intended for lions, and we did coat some broad-heads with mucilage and
powdered strychnine, but we never used them. My physiologic experiments
with curare, the South American arrow poison, aconitin, the Japanese
Ainu poison, and buffogen, the Central American poison, had convinced
me that strychnine was more deadly. It would not harm the meat in the
dilution obtained in the blood, and it was cheap and effective.
Buffogen is obtained by the natives by taking the tropical toad, Buffo
Nigra, enclosing it in a segment of bamboo, heating this over a slow
fire and gathering the exuded juice of the dessicated batrachian. It is
a very powerful substance, having an action similar to that of
adrenalin and strychnine.
Salamandrine, an extract obtained from the macerated skin of the common
red water-dog, is also violently toxic.
But we had a disgust for these things. We soon learned, moreover, that
our arrows were sufficient without these adjuncts, and we deemed it
unsportsmanlike to consider them. Therefore, we abandoned the idea.
Ishi knew of the employment of these killing substances, but he did not
use them. In his tribe they made a poison by teasing a rattlesnake and
having it strike a piece of deer's liver. This was later buried in the
ground until it rotted, and the arrow points were smeared with this
revolting material. It was a combination of crotalin venom and ptomaine
poisons, a very deadly mess.
We much prefer the bright, clean knife-blade of our broad-heads to any
The principles involved in seeking game with the bow and arrow are
those of the still hunt, only more refined.
An archer's striking distance extends from ten to one hundred yards.
For small animals it lies between ten and forty; for large game from
forty to eighty or a hundred. The distance at which most small game
flush varies with the country in which they live, the nature of their
enemies, and the prevalence of hunters. Quail and rabbits usually will
permit a man to approach them within twenty or thirty yards. This they
have learned is a safe distance for a fox or wildcat who must hurl
himself at them. It is quite a fair distance for any man with any
weapon, particularly the bow.
Most small game, especially rabbits, have sufficient curiosity to stand
after their first startled retreat. Beneath a bush or clump of weeds
they squat and watch on the _qui vive_. The arrow may find them there
when it strikes, but often the very flash of its departure and the
quick movement of the hand send the little beastie flying to his cover.
Here two sportsmen working together succeed better; one attracts the
rabbit's attention, the other shoots the shot.
[Illustration: SHOOTING BRUSH RABBITS]
[Illustration: ARCHERS IN AMBUSH]
[Illustration: ISHI RIDING A HORSE FOR THE FIRST TIME]
The marmot or woodchuck, is an impudent and cautious animal and he is a
difficult mark for a bowman's aim. But nothing has more comic
situations than an afternoon spent in a ground-hog village. After an
incontinent scuttle to his burrow, an old warrior backs into his hole,
then brazenly lifts his head and fastens his glittering eye upon you.
The contest of quickness then begins; the archer and the marmot play
shoot and dodge until one after the other all the arrows are exhausted
or a hit is registered. The ground-hog never quits. I can recall one
strenuous noon hour in an outcropping of rock where, between shattered
arrows, precipitous chasing of transfixed old warriors, defiant
whistlers on all sides, we piled up nearly a dozen victims.
Quail hunting requires careful shooting, but it is good training for
the bowman. A sentinel cock, sitting on a low limb, warns his covey of
our approach, but he himself makes a gallant mark for the archer. I saw
Compton spit such a bird on his arrow at fifty yards, while a confused
scurrying flock made easy shooting for two hunters. I am ashamed to say
that we have often taken advantage of the evening roosting of these
birds in trees to secure a supper for ourselves.
But the archer must exercise caution in this team work in the brush. He
should never forget that an arrow will kill a man as readily as it does
an animal and that one should always consider where his shot ultimately
will land, both for the purpose of finding his shaft and avoiding
accidents. Arrows have a great habit of glancing. Once when hunting
quail in a patch of willow in a dry wash, Compton shot at a bird on a
branch, missed it, and at the same instant Young, who was on the
opposite side of the thicket, heard a thwack at his right and turned to
find a broad-head arrow buried up to the barbs in a willow limb just
the height of the heart. It gave us all pause for thought. Look before
While small game may be taken by tactics of moderate cunning, larger
and more wary animals must be hunted by artful measures. Deer, still
abundant in our land, and properly safeguarded by game laws, test the
woodsman's skill to the utmost. To learn the art of finding deer, or
successful approach and ultimate capture, one must study life in the
open. Let him read the work of Van Dyke on still-hunting 
[Footnote 1: _The Still-hunter_, by Van Dyke. The Macmillan Co.]
to gain some idea of the many problems entailed.
In our country we have the Columbia black tail deer. Of course, only
bucks should be shot; as an old forest ranger said to me, "Does ain't
deer." And no one but a starving man would shoot a fawn. Here bucks are
hunted only in the fall, just as they shed their velvet and before the
rutting season. At this time they keep pretty quiet in the brush or
seek the higher lookout points on mountain ridges. They browse mostly
at night and are to be met wandering to water or back to their beds.
The older ones lie very quietly and seldom move far from their cover.
Sometimes in the heat of the day they stir about or go to drink. The
younger bucks are more audacious and seem to feel that their wisdom and
strength can carry them anywhere. For this reason a two-year-old or
forked horn is much more frequently brought down.
It is interesting to note that even in this day of civilization and the
extinction of wild life, deer are to be found within a radius of twenty
miles from our largest cities in California. We, however, invariably
journey by rail or motor car from fifty to three hundred miles to do
most of our hunting. We seek those regions that are most primeval. Here
game is largely in an undisturbed condition. From some station or
outpost we pack with horses into the foothills or higher levels of the
Coast Range or Sierra Nevada Mountains. Having made camp in a sheltered
spot, we hunt on foot over the adjacent country.
Just at dawn and at sunset are the favorite times for finding deer.
The hunters rise from their sleeping bags, make a hasty meal of coffee
and cakes, and long before the light of dawn sweeps the eastern sky,
they must be on the trail. Silently and alert they enter the land of
suspected deer. Taking advantage of every bit of cover, traveling into
the wind where possible, looking at every shadow, every spot of moving
color, they advance. Where trails exist they follow these, or if the
ground be carpeted with soft pine needles, they flit between the deeper
shades of the forest, watchful, and hearing every woodland sound.
Often the crashing bound of a deer through the brush proves that
cautious though the archer may be, more cautious is the deer. Or having
seen him first, the archer crouches, advances to a favorable spot,
gauges the distance, clears his eye, and nerves himself for a supreme
effort. He draws his sturdy bow till the sharpened barb pricks his
finger and bids him loose--a hit, a leap, a clattering flight. Watching
and immovable, the archer listens with straining ears. He must not
stir, he must not follow; later he can trail the quarry. Give the
wounded deer time to lie down and die, then find him.
It is a surprising experience to see animals stand and let arrows fall
about them without fear. An archer has special privileges because he
uses nature's tools.
The whizzing missile is no more than a passing bird to the beast. What
hurt can that bring? The quiet man is only an interesting object on the
landscape, there is no noise to cause alarm. Most animals are ruled by
curiosity till fright takes control. But some are less curious than
others, notably the turkey. There is a story among sportsmen that
describes this in the Indian's speech. "Deer see Injun. Deer say, 'I
see Injun; no, him stump; no, him Injun; no, maybe stump.' Injun shoot.
Turkey see Injun; he say, 'I see Injun.' He go!"
The use of dogs in deer hunting should be restricted to trailing
wounded animals. Here a little mongrel, if properly trained, serves
better than a blooded breed. No dog should be permitted to run deer,
especially if wounded. It is only the dog's nose we need, not his legs.
An ideal canine for an archer would be one having the olfactory organs
of a hound and the reasoning capacity of a college professor. With him
one could trail animals, yet not flush them; perceive the imminence of
game, yet not startle it; run coyotes, wolves, cougars, and bear, yet
never confuse their scent nor abandon the quest of one for that of
another. But as it is, no dog seems capable of doing all things, so we
need specialists. A good bear and lion dog should never taste deer meat
nor follow his tracks.
[Illustration: A REST AT NOON]
[Illustration: A LYNX THAT MET AN ARCHER]
[Illustration: THE CHIEF LOOKING OVER GOOD DEER COUNTRY]
A good coon dog should stick to coons and let rabbits alone. And the
sort of dog an archer needs for deer is one that can point them, yet
will not follow one unless it is wounded.
Every good dog will come to the ringing note of the horn.
And after all, there lies the soul of the sport. The fragrance of the
earth, the deep purple valleys, the wooded mountain slopes, the clean
sweet wind, the mysterious murmur of the tree tops, all call the hunter
forth. When he hears the horn and the baying hound his heart leaps
within him, he grasps his good yew bow, girds his quiver on his hip,
and enters a world of romance and adventure.
THE RACCOON, WILDCAT, FOX, COON, CAT, AND WOLF
Of all the canny beasts, Brother Coon is the wisest, and were it not
for his imprudence and self-assurance, he would be less frequently
captured than the coyote, who is also a very clever gentleman. As it
is, a raccoon hunt is a nocturnal escapade that may be enjoyed by any
lively boy or man who happens to own a coon dog.
Now a coon dog is any sort of a dog that has a sporting instinct and a
large propensity for combat. We have, of course, that product of
culture and breeding, the coon hound, an offshoot from the English fox
hound. This dog is a marvel in his own sphere.
Although we have not devoted a great deal of time to coon hunting, one
or another of our group has counted the scalps of quite a number of
_Procyon lotor_. Having been accepted as a companion of one or two or
more ambitious and enthusiastic dogs, we start out at dusk to hunt the
creek bottoms for coons. Provided with bows, blunt arrows, and a
lantern, we unleash the dogs, and the fun begins.
One must be prepared to scramble through blackberry vines, nettles,
tangled swamps, and to climb trees. The dogs busy themselves sniffing
and working through the underbrush, crossing the creek back and forth,
investigating old hollow trees, displaying signs of exaggerated
interest and industry.
Suddenly there is a change in their vocal expression. Heretofore the
short, snappy bark has spoken only of anticipation and eagerness; now
there comes the instinctive yelp of the questing beast, the hound on
the scent. It bursts from them like a wail from the distant past. As if
shot, they are off in a bunch. A clatter of sounds, scratching,
rustling, and scrambling, we hear them tearing through the brush. We
Back to Full Books